I was taking a look at my old Gamergate blog post the other day, and was delighted to see that it’s just as vague and positionless as I’ve come to respect myself for! In the same spirit, I’m a bit tired of all the gun control arguments flooding social media constantly – mostly consisting of smatterings of “muh rights!!1!” and “lol guns r bad rite?!!?!”
So, to continue my moderate, vague, and positionless streak (and to add to the flood of self-righteous opinions myself), I’m going to start a series of “Compendiums” to serve as collections of some of the more nuanced discussions I’ve seen on otherwise extremely partisan topics. My hope is that this can alleviate (in any small way) the “cultural echo-chamberism” that Facebook and other social media outlets encourage. I should note that I may give my opinions/takeaways, but they are not meant to be the emphasis of this exercise.
Also, I’m going to disclose any biases I have before beginning these issues so that there are lessened accusations that I may be pushing a hidden agenda.
On the topic of Gun Control I am center-left generally. I believe:
- Some level of gun restriction is necessary in a civil society.
- Automatic rifles should be extremely difficult for civilians to attain (and they seem to be).
- Everyone should be allowed (and perhaps encouraged) to have one weapon of some kind (be it a firearm or not) for home defense alone, as the police don’t seem to be enough (note: a website entitled “Freedom Outpost” is likely not unbiased).
So, with that out of the way, let’s begin!
I’ve titled this first one Gun Violence is a Cultural Issue by /u/masamunecyrus on reddit – link.
We’ll always have guns.
So before any discussion of guns in America, we have to agree upon a political reality: America will never “ban” guns. We will always have guns in our society. The country was founded with guns in mind to be an ultimate protection against tyranny. Guns are ingrained in American culture, and they are going nowhere. Americans will never make gun ownership illegal, so any suggestion that we do is a political non-starter.
So since we won’t rid the country of guns, that means that we have to focus on a goal: minimize gun violence. As long as guns exist, gun violence can’t be eliminated. There is no such thing as zero gun violence. That’s impossible. But it can be minimized.
Common proposals to reduce violence are soundbites.
Common proposals to reduce gun violence include increasing background checks and preventing mentally ill from having guns. Both of these proposals are supported by the vast majority of Americans.
The problem is that these proposals always come up after a mass shooting. The reality is that neither of these proposals would even make a dent in gun violence, and neither would they have stopped any mass shooting. In every mass shooting I can remember, the guns used were either totally legal (and would have still been legal under stricter gun laws), or they were stolen from a family member. Petty criminals steal guns (convicted felons are banned from owning guns for life, so anyone with a criminal history can’t legally own a gun–but they get them on the black market, anyway), so background checks won’t stop them. Mass shooters are almost always well-educated law-abiding citizens; they are angry and bitter at the world, but don’t have criminal histories, so they would pass background checks. Neither criminals nor mass shooters ever get their guns from gun shows. In my lifetime, I’ve literally never heard of a single case where a gun used in a crime was purchased at a gun show by someone who couldn’t purchase one elsewhere.
Mass-shootings can’t be legislated away.
On the issue of mass shooters: it is simply impossible to stop someone who is motivated to kill from killing in a free society. There is no such thing as infinite security, and as we have seen since September 11, 2001, we have sacrificed much freedom for security from terrorists, but it hasn’t made us safer. Sick people motivated to kill will use any and all tools available to kill. In other countries, people go on killing sprees with swords, knives, and by driving cars into crowds. These aren’t as deadly as guns, but because America has and always will have guns, guns will always be the method of choice for crazy people, here.
How do we determine “mentally ill”? Who gets to determine it?
As for preventing people with mental illnesses from getting guns–that’s easier said than done. We already have laws on the books preventing people who have been found by a court to be dangerous from possessing firearms. People with domestic violence convictions also can’t have firearms. So I assume any proposals for keeping the mentally ill from possessing firearms are advocating for stronger protections than we already have in place to determine mental illness.
So firstly, how are you going to determine mental illness? Is it by medical history? And how long does a mental health issue prevent you from owning a gun? If a bout of depression can keep you from owning a gun for 10 years, or forever, people may simply not seek help for depression, anymore–if we’re not careful, basing gun control on medical histories could discourage people from seeking the help that they need. People will abstain from going to a psychologist because they don’t want to jeopardize their future gun ownership potential. In a county that already has a taboo against seeking mental help, we don’t want to exacerbate this taboo,
How about by interview? An interviewer could determine whether someone has mental illness, or not. Well, again, there’s another problem. We have to be very careful about who does the interviews, and politically, it’d be very difficult. How much power do we give the interviewer? How do we check their power? Americans aren’t going to allow their right to own a gun (gun ownership is a right–not a privilege–in American law) to be entirely beholden by a government bureaucrat. How do we ensure that the results of interviews are consistent from interviewer to interviewer? Imagine how inconsistent and stupid interviews for visas often are. Will Americans will be comfortable letting their right to own a gun be in the hands of a process like that? Where you can be arbitrarily denied by the interviewer in an opaque process, with little to no recourse?
And again, mass shootings aren’t often perpetrated by overtly crazy people. They are almost always cold, calculated people, and the shootings are planned well in advance. Most of these shooters would pass an interview.
The simple matter of fact is that we cannot stop mass shootings through gun legislation. Mass shootings are cultural problems, and are symptoms of a problem in society. That’s a hard problem to solve. America is one of the most diverse countries on Earth, it has the third-largest population, it has complete freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and we are also the most individualist country on Earth. We are a breeding ground for lone crazy people. In other countries, I suspect that mass murders are less common because people have support to fall back on: family, friends, etc. In America, a good percent of our population kicks their kids out of the house when they turn 18. People are hyper-individualistic. The kinds of people who commit mass shootings feel alone and outcast from society. If they have family, they don’t talk with them or visit with them. They are almost always completely socially isolated. This is a trait of American society. Hyper individualism is what makes America’s culture extremely dynamic. It is also creates extremists. There are pros and cons to our culture.
Stopping mass-shootings requires long-term cultural change. We can reduce common gun crime right now.
Reducing mass shootings requires changing culture. But, what we can certainly do is reduce ordinary gun violence. Mass-shootings are only 0.2% of all gun-related murders. The other 99.8% of everyday gun can and should be minimized.
To get an understanding of how to reduce typical gun violence, we have to understand what gun violence looks like.The political right has made it difficult to do research, but people do their best to estimate using incomplete statistics and unconventional funding sources, anyways. About 65% of all gun-related deaths are suicides or accidents, so you should already consider that whenever you see numbers on the news.
Less than 5% of the guns used in homicides are rifles. Shotguns are used in similar frequency as rifles. Pistols are used in the vast majority of gun murders.
Of the ~7,000 murders with which we have statistics on in 2011, ~1,500 were by strangers, and 20% of those are gang or drug-related. The rest are by spouse, family member, friend, or coworker. The stats show us that random murders (e.g., by a stranger during robbery, rape, kidnapping, etc) are really not a serious issue, at least to the level of severity that we treat it in the media. There are several hundred per year. Per capita, I expect that puts the US somewhere in the range of Denmark in terms of public safety.
So the primary issues are gangs, domestic violence, and arguments, and most of those among acquaintances. Shootings related to domestic violence and arguments can’t be fixed by gun regulation. These are social and cultural issues. When otherwise law-abiding people owning guns shoot each other in an argument, adding background and mental health checks doesn’t fix anything. A culture of violence is at root, there, and I don’t know how to fix that. One thing is for certain, any fixes will start with educating children at schools, and it will take a generation to see results. There are no quick fixes, here.
As for drug and gang gun violence, that can be reduced through legislation. The perpetrators of these crimes nearly all have criminal histories–they can’t legally own guns. They get their guns illegally. There are multi-millions of stolen guns on the black market, today. If we redirected the resources that we use for the drug war towards stopping the illegal gun trade, I have no doubt gun homicides would drop off a cliff. The illegal arms dealer in your neighborhood is more dangerous than the illegal pot dealer. The illegal arms dealer in your neighborhood is more dangerous than a crack dealer. Catching arms dealers and arms caches should be the top priority in the “drug war”–much higher than finding the drugs. Maybe we should have a “war on black market weapons.”
Hundreds of people die in gun accidents each year. We can reduce that.
Lastly, about 4% of gun deaths are accidents. These can be reduced through legislation, as well. Firstly, most states already have laws requiring parents to keep guns unloaded and locked in safes outside the reach of children. The only thing that needs improving, there, is a public awareness campaign that proper gun storage is important. This can be done. Most people wore seatbelts in cars before they were required by law, because most people were educated and encouraged to wear seatbelts for their own safety–and for their kids’ safety.
Secondly, improved gun safety education has already reduced accidental firearm deaths by 58% in America. We should be teaching our children from a young age how to use, hold, understand, and act appropriately with firearms. It doesn’t matter if you never plan to own one, yourself–in a country with 300 million guns, people need to know basic safety. It’s reasonable to assume that most Americans will come into contact with guns at some point in their life. They should be prepared for that time. It’s remarkable how many people are unaware of the universal first and second rules of guns:
- Never aim at anything you don’t want to shoot.
- Don’t place your finger on the trigger unless you’re ready to fire.
Accidental gun deaths are rare where children learn to respect and handle firearms properly. Several hundred people could be saved per year by improving gun education.
Unfortunately, as much as the political right is unwilling to act on gun violence, the left is unwilling to propose reasonable legislation to reduce it. Good luck trying to get gun safety classes in schools–you’ll have leftists complaining that they don’t want their children exposed to guns. And take a look at these simple graphics which should be enough to understand why the focus on “assault weapons” is stupid and ineffectual.
Assault weapon bans are a classic example of politicians passing a law that does absolutely nothing, but makes the public think that they’re doing something.
We can’t fix at everyday gun violence by only looking at extreme statistical outliers like mass shootings.
We already have laws requiring criminal background checks. We already have laws requiring proper gun storage. The “gun show loophole” regarding background checks is not a source of guns used in crimes, but most Americans support closing it, anyway. Screening gun owners for mental illness sounds like a simple idea, but in practice it would be difficult. Nevertheless, most Americans also support it. It would be unlikely to do much, unless it can magically identify psychopaths.
The vast majority of gun violence in America is cultural in nature–domestic violence, arguments, etc. Gun legislation will not solve most of those problems. Even mental illness screening will solve very, very few of the mass shooting problems, and we have to be careful how we implement it so that we:
- Prevent abuse and corruption in the screening process
- Don’t inadvertently discourage those with mental health issues from seeking help.
Of the ~10,000 gun homicides in the country, we can reduce the few hundred accidental deaths and the few thousand gang and violent crime-related deaths. These represent about 20% of those 10,000 homicides. We can do that through improved gun education (which the left won’t support–guns are bad and scary) and refocusing police resources on illegal gun sales instead of illegal drug sales (which the right won’t support–drugs are bad and scary). Unfortunately, neither party is talking about either of those things. Instead, we get the left harping on about assault rifles and gun show loop holes, and the right screaming that the left is stupid and Obama’s gonna take our guns.
Politics is a shitshow.
I think the main takeaways of this post are as follows:
- Each of us needs to think critically about whether or not legislation will solve a specific problem before jumping on a side or moralizing.
- Understand that mass shooting encompass a small percentage of overall gun deaths – we simply hear about them more because there is more tragedy all at once.
- The War on Drugs (which could be its own topic) would be better served as a “War on Illegal Firearms.”
- Federal law should mandate that all American citizens age 16 (or 18) and over have basic firearm operation and safety training so as to diminish accidental misuse.
This next piece was apparently inspiration for the above post. I call it Legislate the Effect by /u/the_blue_wizard – link.
The overwhelming desire is to Legislate the Effect, because that makes is so very very easy to ignore the Cause.
This is the Legislation of the 6 o’clock News. It has nothing to do with fixing the problem, it has to do with getting your name in the News and creating the illusion that you have accomplished something. In some case, just to create the illusion that something was being done, Congress past new laws that duplicated existing laws. They did nothing, but nicely created the illusion to the voters that they did something.
To close the background check loophole at gun shows, Congress can mandate instant on the spot background check. But equally Congress could pass a law that forbids the Sun from shining in the day time. Instant Background Checks can only work if there is a means by which Instant Background Checks can be made.
Lastly, let’s look at the 2md Amendment in the context of the entire Bill of Rights. What does the Bill of Rights do? It empowers citizens. It in effect creates a new powerful branch of Govt called “The People”, something no other country has done to the extent that the USA has.
The people need that power to keep Govt corruption and tyranny under control. That’s why we have Free Speech, so the govt can not suppress our common discussion about their corruption. That is why we have protection from Unwarranted Searches, to prevent govt tyranny. That is why we have Freedom of the Press. The first thing any country bent on tyranny does, is take over the flow on information, and prevent independent reporting and discussion. Every element of the Bill of Right empowers citizens in a way that makes the citizens The Sword of Damocles hanging over the head of govt.
As to Gun Crime and Violence, that’s the price of Freedom. If we apply anti-gun logic to any other problem, we see its absurdity. There are approximately 36,000 deaths by motor vehicles every year in the USA. To what extend to you think that death rate would go down if we outlawed cars? Yet, we accept traffic death as the price we pay for functional mobility in society provided by cars. How many pedestrian accidents do you imagine there would be if we outlaws cars within the bounds of cities?
A few days ago, one gun killed a reporter and her camera man, which is tragic, but on that day, 279,999,999 guns did not kill them. The percent of guns and the percent of ammunition that are used in crime is microscopic relative to the number of guns in the possession of the American people and relative to the number of rounds they fire.
Recently in Minnesota, Skeet/Trap (shotgun) shooting overtook all others to be come the SECOND largest high school sport in the state. Far in excess of 6,000,000 rounds fired and not a single accident. How many car accidents do you suppose there are for every 6,000,000 miles driven?
Gun violence is the Effect, society and the state of individual are the cause, but those are hard problems to solve. Consequently, and metaphorically, it is easier to blame the car, than the driver.
I suspect the New Town shooting would never have occurred, if …someone had simply been nice to the shooter. He was socially awkward and inept, but if those he encountered were true Christians, they would have reach out to him, and make him feel like life was worth living. They wouldn’t even have to be his friend, but simply be friendly toward him.
Equally, all the guns he used were in compliance with the laws. If gun laws had been stricter, then those guns would have simply been in compliance with the stricter gun laws. The problem wasn’t guns, the problem was a trouble individual would progressively became more and more isolated from the world to the point where life ceased to have meaning, his life or the lives of other.
The same at Columbine, the same with the reporter/cameraman. The shooters became more and more isolate, alienated, marginalized, and desperate. These types of shooting could be greatly reduces if people would simply stop being assholes to other people.
But in a country with 280,000,000 guns, a certain percentage of people are going to be injured by guns, either accidentally or intentionally. Just as in a country with 280,000,00 cars, there are going to be accidental and intentional injuries.
Equally one must ask, in a country like France, with strict gun control, how is it the Charlie Hebdo shooter had full body armor and an assault rifle? Answer: Simple, being a psychotic crook, he felt no compulsion to obey the laws.
Lastly, there are countries that are armed to the teeth, and they have a far lower per capita rate of gun crimes. Why, because they are not fascist assholes. Because they are stable countries with fair economic opportunity and social justice. You don’t get frustrated nutcases, because these societies have far few reasons for people to become that frustrated and marginalized. There is a big cultural divide in the USA that breeds these types of people. But the solution is to take care of those people, not simply to punish countless million of otherwise law abiding people.
Equally, in the age of information, a typical motivated teenager, can make a gun and bombs from common item found at Walmart and Home Depot. This genie is out of the bottle. Someone intent on doing harm will have no problem doing harm. The solution is not to forbid the means, but rather make sure the person has no cause to harm others. Because the means can never be truly suppressed, but our capacity to be assholes to each other is very much in our control.
Focus on the CAUSE, not the result.
Finally, here’s a post from Quora that summarizes Gun Control difficulty quite well (this whole thread is really worth reading, to be honest). Credit to Jon Mixon, with source.
Would stricter gun control laws have prevented recent mass shootings in America (Newtown, Purdue, etc.)? Which laws would have made a difference?
No. There are many stringent gun control laws on the books throughout the United States, at the local,state and federal levels. The include anything from essentially outright bans of handguns (New York City, Chicago,etc) to legislation heavily regulating firearms ownership (Illinois) to laws preventing the majority of Americans from owning military-capable weapons and most explosive launching smalls arms (US federal laws).
In fact, in most areas of the United States, it is difficult for law-abiding citizens to obtain firearms and they run the risk of being stopped by law enforcement and having their legally purchased weapon confiscated. Even many criminals, who could care less about obeying laws, find that they have a difficult time obtaining guns and usually only carry them when absolutely “necessary” to commit their crimes.
Short of an outright ban on ALL firearms, it’s difficult to see how any meaningful additional gun control laws could be created. Since the right to own weapons is enshrined in the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution this would be almost impossible to occur. And if it could, the sheer number of weapons available and the relative ease with which they could be manufactured, precludes any serious attempts to try.
I’m a firearms owner and an (of late that is) occasional target shooter. When people talk with me about gun control, I remind them that there exists a total ban on a number of different types of drugs. You can be arrested in most areas for possessing even a miniscule quantity of the substances.Even being under influence of drugs is a crime.
This, however, has done little if anything to halt the massive and lucrative trade in those drugs. In fact, the banning of drugs has created a violent underground industry which has corrupted all levels of government and business and that has fueled much of the violence now plagues many American cities.
Using that as an example, there is no reason to believe that further gun control measures would do anything more than create another lucrative underground criminal industry (which already exists in New York City and Washington D,C,) whose sole purpose would be to traffic in now illegal small arms.
Here’s a list of the current gun control measures already in place throughout the nation ( from a surprisingly good Wikipedia entry):
Overall, I recommend people check out reddit’s NeutralPolitics subreddit daily, as it has pretty decent discussion (especially compared to the mouthbreathing echo-chambers of r/Politics, r/MarchAgainstTrump, r/esist, r/The_Donald, and Voat as a whole). Additionally, Quora is generally a nicely nuanced source and has a great thread on Gun Control in particular.
Until I next put my foot in my mouth!
Much indeed to be regretted, party disputes are now carried to such a length, and truth is so enveloped in mist and false representation, that it is extremely difficult to know through what channel to seek it. This difficulty to one, who is of no party, and whose sole wish is to pursue with undeviating steps a path which would lead this country to respectability, wealth, and happiness, is exceedingly to be lamented. But such, for wise purposes, it is presumed, is the turbulence of human passions in party disputes, when victory more than truth is the palm contended for.
GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to Timothy Pickering, July 27, 1795